EU-UK youth engagement

Practical information

  1. Composition of the Study Group
  2. Administrator / Assistant in charge: Sveto TRAJKOVSKI / Elisabete DIAS

Background

The European Council Resolution on The European Youth Strategy 2019-2027 sets forth that "The EU Youth Strategy should also foster the connectedness of young people in the EU and candidate countries, Eastern-Partnership and Western Balkan partners, as well as with other third countries with whom the EU has association or cooperation agreements, as appropriate, with the help of the EU through relevant EU funding programmes." The EU Youth Strategy itself states that "EU cooperation with partner countries is aimed at contributing to human development and engagement of young people worldwide and is core to more resilient societies and to enhance trust between cultures and stability for the EU itself. In addition, it seeks to promote active participation in society at global level. The EU is supporting young people to engage with regions outside Europe and become more involved in global policy processes regarding issues such as climate change, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, human rights, etc." In addition, the EESC own-initiative opinion on The Youth Test states that "the EESC agrees that CSOs can play a critical role in engaging young people in societal challenges, and therefore in their participation in policy-making and the democratic process".

The Future UK-EU Relationship report drawn up by the UK Parliament's European Affairs Committee states that post-Brexit barriers to mobility between the EU and the UK have had the most significant impact on young people, including workers and professionals in the early stages of their careers, as well as students across different educational levels. In 2021 the UK Government established a new study abroad scheme, called the Turing scheme, which is global in scope rather than being focused on the EU, and has also a limited scope in other aspects, and is therefore not even close to replacing Erasmus+. Wales has introduced the Taith programme, and Scotland announced plans for the Scottish Education Exchange Programme, but with no progress. Similar applies to Horizon Europe, for which the EU and UK have recently reached an agreement.

Given that post-Brexit changes to arrangements for mobility between the UK and the EU have had a disproportionately significant impact on younger people both in the EU and in the UK, especially in the area of education and science, the EESC should propose to the EU institutions to consider the possibility of facilitating EU-UK youth relations, including a possible reciprocal youth mobility scheme with the UK, as well as identifying various areas where EU-UK youth engagement can help young people on both sides of the Channel, which at the same time would contribute to enhancing EU-UK relations in general. In addition to youth mobility, there are opportunities for establishing links between EU and UK youth organisations in the area of education, science, the environment, climate change, etc. Youth engagement has been a priority for virtually all European institutions, and is also a priority for the current EESC President. This, combined with the EESC's well established reputation in engaging with young people (for example the EESC Youth Delegate to the COP 2023-2024), puts the EESC in a perfect position to put forward such a proposal and to act as a role model.

As such, this own-initiative opinion aims to contribute to improving EU-UK youth engagement and mobility, which in turn would contribute to improving EU-UK relations, and consolidate the EESC's reputation as EU civil society mediator and youth champion. There is a clear interest for all citizens of the EU in EU-UK youth engagement, which is a very important, though sometimes neglected segment of civil society. EU-UK youth engagement is also a topic of mutual interest for both the EU and UK in terms of having the potential to be a catalyst that could facilitate cooperation between the EU and the UK also in other areas. Following a difficult initial post-Brexit period, this is of high importance for the future, given that the UK remains one of the most important trading partners of the EU, as well as an important partner in the areas of security and defence, environment, climate, financial services, and other areas.